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The Principles of English Versification
written by "Baum, Paull F. (Paull Franklin), 1886-1964"
...he curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The plowman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. These verses are regular (as is appropriate for the theme), and vary comparatively little from the formal metrical pattern. The coincidence of prose rhythm and metrical rhythm is almost complete. Yet by means of small subtleties of variation in pause, word order, long and short syllables, Gray always saves the poem from monotony. How far the variations may be carried, how much the ear may be depended upon for rhythmic substitution and syncopation, is determined by many things. Certain lines are unmistakably metrical to all ears and in all positions—such as these verses of Gray's Elegy. Certain lines are generally felt to contain daring variations and yet be successful and effective—such as The blue Mediterranean, where he lay. Shelley, Ode to the West Wind. Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro' the lawn. Tennyson, Small Sweet Idyl, in The Princess. Other lines stretch our metrical sense to the breaking point, and according to individual taste we judge them bold or too bold—such as Tennyson's [56] Take your own time, Annie, take your own time. Enoch Arden. or Milton's Burnt after them to the bottomless pit. Paradise Lost, VI, 866. In all of these examples the metrical pattern is the same: five consecutive iambs. The modifications illustrate plainly the extraordinary flexibility of language. Time and Stress. Probably the most disputed point in all prosodic theory is the relative importance of time (duration, syllabic length) and stress (accent) in English verse. Some writers have attempted to explain all the phenomena entirely by stress; others entirely by time. Neither side, of course, has been very successful.[25] The difficulty is partly one of theory and partly one of correct analysis of the facts. Thank...

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